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Abel to Yzerman

Giving Babcock His Due…And Plenty Of Rope

Buried in the comments of this post are these words from W2J2:
Kopecky is consistently pounding the boards. Hudler is good on the puck, knows where to be on the ice, gives a hit, and can take one, too. Filpulla is a natural. Cleary is amazing. He was a star scorer in the minor leagues, and now look at him score after years playing checking forward in the big show. One other thing: Lilja was kicking butt Saturday night. Listen guys, a lot of this player development is happening because of Mike Babcock.
A homer, you say. A typical A2Y reader so biased for the Wings that he's blinded to the pitfalls that lay ahead, like...the implosion perhaps?. Not quite.

Jim Kelley/Sportsnet

Chipping in is the theme in Detroit and that’s a calling card of Babcock. The Red Wings have had a lot of talent for a lot of years. They’ve lost some of that, but not their winning attitude. Still, they did have to redefine it, going from a flashy, fast-skating, blow you out of the building kind of a team, to a more work-oriented club, but given their recent first-round playoff failures, including last season, Babcock’s first at the helm there, they knew they had to change.

It’s time we acknowledged a few things about this coach.  First, he is responsible for the way this team has transitioned from glamour to grit.  There can be no argument on that.  This team is the version Babcock wanted to ice last Spring.  And, yeah, that leads me to the second point.

He is not disappointed at the retirement of Steve Yzerman, or the departure of Brendan Shanahan.  And it’s time that we realize that isn’t a reason to put him on Columbus’ short list.  He’s acknowledged what The Captain did for this team.  But he also recognized that a bunch of young players living in Yzerman’s shadow wouldn’t progress the way he needed them to.  Did he push Yzerman out?  I don’t believe so.  But I doubt he was burning up cell phone minutes re-dialing “19” on his contact list.

As for Shanahan? At this point we have to believe that Babcock had a reason not to pursue him. And, yes, I said Babcock and not Holland.  Red Wing management has, apparently, given Babcock plenty of rope.  They’re sitting back, giving him leeway to craft this team and mold it the way he believes they can win, and not just win the division.  If Mike Babcock felt Shanny would have been part of that equation, 14 would be playing Wednesday night at the Joe, against Vancouver. 

Jiri Hudler is playing with tenacity.  Dan Cleary, like Jason Williams last year, is suddenly scoring at will.  Valteri Filpulla and Tomas Kopecky are owning the corners.  The entire team is playing a brand of hockey that Babcock demands they play.  Did he demand it least season?  Well, my guess is that he tried to convince the team that a change in philosophy would bring positive results.  But, that team belonged to Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan…maybe Shanahan even more.  Babcock could preach all he wanted, but unless that team’s vocal conscience—Shanny—obviously bought into it, it’s a safe bet few others would either.

Back to the leeway, the rope he’s been given.  Let’s be clear about this.  Mike Babcock has been given the reigns. But, with those reigns comes a short timetable for success.  I do believe he’s tough for players and management to stomach.  But like Bowman, digesting his style will be a lot easier with a Cup over your head.  Mike Babcock has his team.  Ken Holland and Mike Ilitch have handed over architectural responsibility.  I believe any moves made between now and June will be those suggested by, or agreed to, by Babcock. 

But he’d better win.  So far, it’s looking good.  But, he’d better win when it counts.

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About Abel to Yzerman

Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com